The Law of the First-Born--Part 1
Jan 02, 2009
Even as the law of first fruits applies to agriculture (grain and fruit), so also does the law of the first-born apply to mankind.
Both laws are based upon the principle that God owns all that He creates. Any nation that refuses to recognize God's ownership will not comply with these laws--or if they do, they steal the first fruits and first-born for themselves.
When God sent Moses to Pharaoh with the message to release the Israelites from their bondage, we read in Exodus 4:22, 23,
" (22) Then you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My first-born. (23) So I said to you, Let My son go, that he may serve Me; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your first-born."
Israel obviously does not include the entire family of God, but only the first-born son. When we observe the rest of Scripture and see the greater picture, we find that Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension brought "many sons into glory" (Heb. 2:10). This phrase was used in the context of universal reconciliation in the previous verses.
The order of birth has to do with one's authority in the family. So Col. 1:18 says of Christ,
"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything."
So the New Testament applies this law of the first-born to the resurrection. Jesus was raised from the dead first, which gives Him pre-eminence over all things under the Father (1 Cor. 15:28). Yet there are also "many sons," who are Jesus' younger brothers, for "He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11).
The order of resurrection, then, indicates one's level of authority in the Kingdom. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:22 and 23 that each man will be raised from the dead "in his own order" (tagma, "squadron"). The first resurrection in Rev. 20:4-6 is the first squadron of resurrected ones. These are the overcomers who are given authority over all except Christ who preceded them.
The Church itself will inherit life (immortality) in the second general resurrection (Rev. 20:11), when all the dead are raised to stand before God to be held accountable for the things they did in their life time. Jesus spoke of this resurrection in John 5:28, 29, and Paul confirms this in Acts 24:14, 15.
Each group is given authority according to their squadron that has been raised from the dead.
The law of the first-born is given in Exodus 13:11-13,
" (11) Now it shall come about when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, (12) that you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. (13) But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem."
The next verse says that God brought Israel out of Egypt as His first-born. Verse 15 tells us that Pharaoh was stubborn and refused to let Israel go, and for this reason, God (in effect) broke his neck by killing the first-born of Egypt. In other words, Egypt's first-born also belonged to God, whether they knew it or not, but they refused to recognize God's ownership of their first-born. The penalty was the death of their first-born sons, as well as the death of all the first-born of the cattle in Egypt.
Another point to make is that the first-born of both Israel and Egypt were considered "donkeys." Donkeys were unclean animals and so they could not be given to God directly. They had to be redeemed by lambs (that were clean). Israel was being "born" out of Egypt as God's first-born, but because they were spiritual donkeys, they had to be redeemed by the Passover lamb. (Jer. 2:24 calls Israel a wild donkey.)
Egypt's first-born was also claimed by God, but because they remained unclean, stiff-necked donkeys, refusing to devote them to God, they were judged by the law of the first-born.
Israel was God's first-born NATION. In later years, when they became spiritual donkeys, God broke the neck of the nation by destroying the nation and dispersing them into the Assyrian captivity. Obviously, God takes it very seriously when men rebel against Him and when His right of ownership is disregarded.
But there is another level of application for this law. It is the tribal (or family) application, based upon the same principle. And so in Numbers 3:12, 13 we read,
" (12) Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every first-born, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. (13) For all the first-born are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the first-born in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the Lord."
We see here that the entire tribe of Levi was the "lamb" redeeming the rest of the first-born of Israel. The Passover Lamb represented Jesus Christ Himself, who redeemed the whole nation as a body; but the Levites also played the role of subordinate lambs, redeeming the first-born of the other tribes. They do the work of the Big Lamb, being submitted to Him.
For this reason, the Levites are types of the overcomers who are called to reign with Christ on the earth (Rev. 5:10; 20:6). Even as the Levites were called as government officials, so also are the overcomers called to judge and rule when jurisdiction is given to the saints of the Most High (Dan. 7:27). This is not to say that they have nothing to do at the present time or in this present life time. However, their rule is limited during the time of Babylon's jurisdiction.
While the Levites formed the civil government, the priests were responsible for the spiritual government in Israel. This division of powers (Church and State) were both subject to the law of God in the Theocracy, but they had different duties. Both of them eventually usurped authority and refused to obey God and His law. And so both were replaced as executors of God's "last will and testament" at the time of Christ's death on the cross. The Levitical Order itself was replaced by the Melchizedek Order, whose High Priest was Jesus Christ.
In doing this, He united the people under one Head, not only healing the breach between Israel and Judah, but also consolidating the power that had been diffused by Jacob's blessing on his sons. Jacob had given the birthright to Joseph, the scepter to Judah, and the priesthood to Levi. And then Levi itself was divided by Moses into civil and religious segments.
It is hard to say how many of these divisions of labor will be retained in the Tabernacles Age to come. It appears to me that the overcomers (Melchizedek Order) will entirely replace Levi--both the civil and religious orders--because as perfected ones, they will have all the qualifications of Jesus Christ Himself. They will know His will perfectly, and they will execute His will in all things as if it were Jesus Himself making those decisions.
When we study the types and shadows in Ezekiel 44, we see a transfer of authority from Eli to Zadok. Both were of Aaron, but they are meant to convey a greater transfer from Levi to Melchizedek (Melchi-Zadok).
More about this next time.
This is the first part of a series titled "The Law of the First-Born." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones